- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 5, 2014

How best to discipline schoolchildren?

Well, that depends.

But whether you stand among the hardliners or the he-didn’t-mean-it deniers, one thing is certain: Give-‘em-a-break discipline policies are coming to a schoolhouse near you.

The Council of State Governments Justice Center on Tuesday released a report that not only says zero-tolerance school discipline policies should be modified, but that in too many cases, we’re just too doggone hard on kids.

This report won’t be easily dismissed or tossed on a shelf to gather dust.

No, this report is the work of an organization that advises state governments, which decide how to develop statewide policies and the budgets to go along with them.

The report, titled “School Discipline Consensus Report: Strategies from the Field to Keep Students Engaged in School and Out of the Justice System,” echoes a common socioeconomic talking point: Black and brown kids, poor kids, disabled kids, at-risk kids are disproportionately hurt by zero-tolerance policies.

Or healthy, white kids are essentially disaffected.

Hmm.

Come to think of it, that goes for a lot of policies, am I right?

I’m not trying to make light of the school discipline issue.

Here in the nation’s capital alone, more than 18,700 public school suspensions were handed out in the 2011-12 school year — and that doesn’t take into account private and parochial schools.

And, by the way, special-needs students are included among those 18,700 suspensions.

Also, during that same school year, more than 200 expulsion orders were issued.

The D.C. data I gleaned from the Every Student Every Day Coalition, a nonpartisan advocacy organization which issued its own report — “District Discipline: The Overuse of School Suspension and Expulsion in the District of Columbia.”

The coalition’s report was authored by the D.C. Lawyers for Youth, which means that, like the Justice Center’s report, one of the key goals is to get kids out of the pipeline to prison.

How noble.

Suspending and expelling kids because of truancy problems is a surefire setup for failure.

It would be nice if the unions, which perpetrated the pipeline, concede as much ASAP.

But that’s unlikely, considering one certain result of the recommendations to end the pipeline is more union jobs.

More school counselors.

More school attendance counselors.

More social workers.

More school date gatherers.

More special-education teachers and aides.

More school-discipline mitigators.

You get my drift.

So, let’s recap.

How best to discipline school children?

If you’re a member of the zero-tolerance crowd, then it’s locked ‘em down or lock ‘em up — the universal hard and fast rule that’s hardly implemented anymore.

There’s a timeout group, those who believe in giving little Suzette time alone to think, or rethink, her actions.

It’s a question the “experts” continue to study long and hard.

Two organizations release reports that say school discipline policies are unfair to black and brown kids.

Two organizations recommend loosening policies that require new rules and implementers.

Two organizations have justice on their minds and intentions to reconfigure the pipeline-to-prison equation.

Prevention is the best cure — and a swat with a flat hand sometimes helps, too.

Deborah Simmons can be reached at dsimmons@washingtontimes.com

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